Rachel de Queiroz (kay-ee-RAWSH) is regarded as a significant voice of neoregionalism in Brazil and as a protofeminist writer. She was born in the capital city of the state of Ceará in Brazil’s northeastern region, the setting of most of her fiction. After the great drought of 1915, her family moved to Rio de Janeiro and then to Belém do Pará. Returning to Fortaleza, she graduated from a Catholic girls’ school in 1925 and two years later began work as a journalist. Throughout her career she has written crônicas, the Brazilian genre of commentary, social observation, or sketches of life and customs. At the age of twenty, Queiroz published her first novel, which received a national book award. Like many intellectuals of the day concerned with social issues, she had a brief association with the Communist Party (1931-1933) and faced imprisonment for expressing her ideas. In the late 1930’s Queiroz moved permanently to Rio de Janeiro, but she continued to make annual visits to the family ranch in the interior of Ceará. In recognition of her defense of the disadvantaged she was chosen to represent her country at the 1966 United Nations Commission on Human Rights, after which she joined the Federal Council of Culture. In 1977 she became the first woman to be elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
Queiroz is noted for her profound understanding of the language, landscape, and human drama of northeastern Brazil. The second generation of Brazilian modernism, which included such authors as Jorge Amado, was characterized by the nationally focused social novel of the 1930’s. As a member of this generation, Queiroz sought to bring pressing issues to light in honest examinations of conditions in her land of birth. Themes of social conflict, poverty, and forced migration structure Queiroz’s fiction. The physical and mental suffering caused by...
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